He was dead within seconds, right on schedule. I breathed in the acrid scent of gunpowder and smiled from my darkened vantage point. The sounds of chaos erupted from the shadows and as the lights came up all attention became focused on the crumpled figure at center stage. It was just as I’d planned it, months ago. Shifting in my seat, I sat back and drank in the mayhem I’d created.
I didn’t set out to do this. Last November I was enjoying my morning coffee, unwinding after the production of the fall play. The days following a major show are always bittersweet. As a family, we are all ready for a break, yet sad to see the camaraderie and hard work come to an end.
On this particular day I was struck with a vision of an opening scene. Darkness… chaos…a thump…a gunshot. Lights coming up upon a scene of murder and mystery. A story unfolding in the recollections of the characters. I threw the idea out to my husband. As we conversed, the idea began to grow and sprout legs. By the time the kids got up, this vision had become a living, breathing thing.
Over the course of a few weeks, we brainstormed and I wrote. By the end of the month I had the rough draft of my first script, Clueless in the Ballroom. Our youth theater producers accepted it, cast it, and we began rehearsals for the spring production.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I found early on that this experience was strikingly like becoming a parent. I had birthed these characters. I had a vision for who each one was, what they would look like, sound like, and how they would respond in any given situation. In the same way, when I looked into the faces of my babies, I had underlying assumptions about who they would become, how they would act, and how they would respond to certain situations. In both cases, I had it all planned out in my head.
What I found on the stage is that the characters, once infused with the personality of the actor portraying them, did not always end up the way I had imagined. Some were close, but others were a complete surprise. The same holds true for my children. When my children became old enough for their unique personalities, passions, and talents to emerge I was often caught off guard. These children of mine, in a variety of ways, did not conform to my ideas of who they would be.
Early on during rehearsals, I realized that my presence was disruptive to the creative process. In their eagerness to please, the kids would look at me for approval. They were dividing their focus between the director and me, and where our visions differed it felt wrong to try to usurp the director’s authority. I had simply birthed this story; it was up to our director and the cast to bring it to life.
I find the same holds true for my children. My expectations can easily become a disruption in their growth. God’s vision for my kids will not always look the same as mine and it would be wrong of me to usurp His authority. I birthed them, yes, but it is ultimately the Director’s call on how their lives will unfold. Their focus must be allowed to be on Him alone.
So I stepped back from the rehearsals for a time. I wanted the director and the cast to find the feel of the show and the nuances of each character without concern for the writer. And, I must confess, it was necessary to keep me from trying to micromanage every subtlety of every character in every scene. The temptation to be a backseat director was simply too strong. Something had to go, and that something was me.
Likewise, I am learning to step back and resist the temptation to be the proverbial helicopter mom. The kids don’t need me hovering over every aspect of every scene in their lives. They must be free to explore their role in His show without worrying about pleasing me or conforming to my notions of who they are. I need to be open, available, and a source of wisdom for them, of course. But how will they ever grow and learn and expand if I am managing each jot and tittle of their days?
Yes, this journey to becoming a bona fide playwright has been enlightening indeed. The show turned out fabulous, though it took some turns I did not expect. My possessiveness and pride struggled at times with this. I had to break through a wall of preconceived visions that, no matter how clearly written, would be interpreted differently through different eyes. It’s a similar struggle as a mom. I have to tear down those walls of suppositions and ditch the ego that says I know best, and allow my kids to become who He created them to be.
It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it?
What I have found though, in both cases, is that while some details may not be exactly as I planned, it may actually turn out better. And when I can get past myself and relinquish ownership of something that isn’t really mine to begin with, well, then I can not only accept the changes but actively embrace them.
Thank you, Lord, for being the ultimate Director. Give me wisdom in this parenting journey. Let me know how to gently guide each of my children into the passions and talents You have gifted them with. More, let me know when to stand back and allow them free reign to express those gifts on the stage of Your choosing. And may their creative focus, their motivations, and their very identity be entirely in You. Amen.